South Africa developing its own atlas as it looks at wind power

CSIR scientists are turning to the skies for the technological innovations to propel South Africa forward. A wind atlas is being developed to determine how much wind the country has available for conversion to wind energy.

Speaking yesterday at the biennial conference of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Steve Szewczuk said South Africa had well-developed atlases for solar, biomass and hydro energy resources, but that wind speeds remained under-researched.

The Department of Energy, with funding from the Danish embassy, has initiated the erection of 10 masts along the country’s coastline, which will provide accurate data over the next three years, starting this month.

After one year, an interim atlas will be available. All wind speed data will be available to the public as it is collected at

According to Szewczuk, a CSIR scientist, the first South African wind atlas was put together in 1995. A subsequent version is more sophisticated, but still does not show enough detail. “Because of this, everyone thinks we have no wind.”

He is hoping South Africa will follow the example of Egypt, which was also thought to have “no wind”, but after it had developed a wind atlas, it was found to be one of the world’s most lucrative wind energy sites.

The conference is also being used to highlight the development opportunities offered by the aerospace industry – “a critical component of any country’s power base”, according to CSIR scientist Andre Nepgen.

Unlike typical developing countries, South Africa has a strong research and development capability backed by a wide range of research infrastructure, primarily as a result of investment in defence in|the 1960s, said CSIR scientist Beeuwen Gerryts.

This puts the country in a good position to continue feeding into the global market. But South Africa will have to respond to global challenges, particularly climate change – one of the concerns that led to the formulation of a European agreement called Acare 2010.

Under Acare, there has been a commitment in the aerospace industry to reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent.

The manager of aerothermodynamics at Volvo Aero Corporation in Sweden, Dr Anders Skyttebol, said they planned to reduce the weight of plane engines by about 3 percent to save 17 000kg of fuel a year in a typical single-aisle aircraft.

By Kanina Foss,